I began my first web/application based business about 10 years ago. When it comes to hosting and development services I've had plenty of experience as a client and as a provider. The decision of where to host your website is consequential. Here, in brief, are some thoughts I'd like you to consider:
- Starting with the simple stuff; it is important that you know that the 'host' of your site is where all of the code, files, images, etc. reside. The party in control of the host is in control of this content. If this is not you, then your ownership of (and access to) this content is guaranteed only by agreement or contract with the controlling party.
- What's wrong with someone else controlling the hosting of your website? Maybe nothing. It's convenient and frees you from having to worry about a ton of technical considerations including backup & recovery, security, performance, etc.
- However I recommend that you have an agreement that clearly states your rights, and exit plan in the event you wish to part ways with a provider (or in the event the provider ceases to operate - which happens).
- Exit plans can vary in complexity. Simple plans would include the transfer of all site and database files, sufficient for a competent developer to re-launch your website somewhere else. You may request periodic backups of these files be made accessible to you. More complicated websites and applications require specific server-level resources and documentation. If yours is a more complicated website or web application, I'd make sure you have a plan in place ASAP, as these can be much more difficult to reassemble elsewhere without the support of your existing developer/provider.
- Where the site is hosted is also important. There are many great platforms out there. If you are hosting through a developer, ask them where you are being hosted. Are you paying premium prices for a slice of someone's shared hosting account? What level of access to (and control over) the server do they have? Is it a web based management program like CPanel? Do they have SSH level control over a virtual machine? What resources are allocated to your site? There aren't necessarily wrong answers to these questions, but you should make sure you are getting value for what you spend. Information on your hosting configuration will also help you plan for contingencies later.
- Additionally, knowing about your hosting environment will allow you to assess whether your resources match your needs.
These are just a handful of considerations when picking a hosting provider, or assessing the provider you have. They come to mind as I've had several occasions to be on both the client and provider sides of this equation. Charles Creative offers hosting, exclusively on virtual private servers, but this is not the best fit for all our clients.
Two big questions to ask yourself before choosing to host with any developer:
- "Am I interested in entering into a medium to long-term relationship with this developer?"
- "Do I intend to use any other (internal or external) developer in this period?"
I know this only scratches the surface. Please contact me if you want to discuss your specific situation.